A brief history of topical invention in 20th century United States rhetorical studies

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Hubbell, Gaines S.
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Communication and rhetoric
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Although work on topical invention in the last century has neither a single coherent concept nor consistent terminology, it maintains a deep structure in which topics identify the sources for linkages that connect claims and conclusions to the data upon which they are based. This structure can be used to identify instances of topical invention in scholarly discussions and to analyze the shifts, trends, developments, and changes in topical invention over the last 100 years. The changes to, various conceptions of, and potential future developments for topical invention as evidenced by its shifting structure across the last century are presented in this dissertation.
This dissertation is a history of topical invention in U.S. rhetorical studies. Topical invention is the procedurally structured and/or organized thinking-out of propositions in text, speech, or other symbolic products; it is the structured and systematized method of invention originally developed by Aristotle, often referred to by the Greek topoi or the Latin loci. Although it goes by many names in recent history, topical invention has a structure based on Michael Leff’s definition of topical invention that shares five common aspects: data, claims or conclusions, linkages, sources, and topics. Data are some set of contextual knowledge, claims or conclusions are statements that express a truth value based on data, linkages are the expressed or implicit relationship between data and claims or conclusions, sources are methods for finding linkages, and topics are the naming of discrete entities in a system for invention.
This history selects texts dealing with topical invention in U.S. rhetorical studies discourse published between 1914 and 2014. A text was considered to be dealing with topical invention if it had an explicit discussion of topical invention or a discussion matching the structure of topical invention. U.S. rhetorical studies is the discourse community present in journals published by the four major United States professional societies studying rhetoric—the National Communication Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, the Rhetoric Society of America, and the American Society for the History of Rhetoric—and the publications Philosophy & Rhetoric and Rhetoric Review. Texts were selected and interpreted using a deconstructive reading and pluralistic and idiographic ideologies of history.
August 2015
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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